Hanukkah is my favorite holiday.
I don’t care about the presents. (As kids, we never got eight and the ones we did receive were rarely wrapped or expensive.)
I don’t love the food. (Potato latkes are greasy and fattening; sufganiot are NOT as good as jelly-filled donuts.)
But, I do love the story. It’s a tale of faith. Of hope. Of triumph. Of miracles. And, more importantly, it’s about how the story is told. Here’s one version:
A second, more lengthy one, involves the unfolding drama of abuse and intolerance. Even then, the Jewish minority suffered; this time at the hands of the Syrian-Greeks. The high point tells of guerrilla warfare, where the weak few — the believers in God — rise up and defeat the great strong army of pagans. (Back in the day, I must say, my dad told this story — in the first person! — pretty well.)
The concept — which I wholeheartedly support — of Jews defending their homeland and exerting their right to practice their faith as they choose, however, has a new significance for me this year. The lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah, this Sunday evening, marks a week since my eighteen-year-old nephew entered the Israel Defense Forces. Although he was born and has lived in Israel his entire life, and this “rite of passage” was not a sudden surprise, it still is difficult to grasp when it all hits so close to home.
As parents, we do our best in raising our children. We settle in a place where we believe we can live good lives. We do what we can to feed, clothe, educate, and engage them. We try to be role models and seek to instill values of family and community, worldly perspectives, and a whole slew of other things. Why? So that when they leave us to pursue their own lives, we know we’ve done everything humanly possible to position them for success. And we hope they’ll be mensches in the process.
But, unfortunately, we cannot protect our children from harm. Once they walk out our doors, we become helpless and powerless. No matter where they go or what they do, we worry….and it seems that no one can fully understand the fears in our hearts. We desperately don’t want them to fall prey to or become victims of failure, depression, harassment, drugs, terrorism, random acts of violence, or….even war. We pray, with our entire beings, they’ll always be victorious.
As the holiday season approaches, I am thinking of Elad and all the children who’ve left our nests. I fervently pray for them, peace on earth and joy to the world.